We still like to tell stories on Thanksgiving.
Preparing for the sale of our family home earlier this year was a challenging task for my siblings and me. Dealing with the loss of our father, then our mother and then oldest sister in the last few years made the selling of the house where we all grew up all the more poignant.
Going through decades of accumulated items that told the story of our family was at times like an archaeological dig of genealogy.
It was both wonderful and heartbreaking to discover photos that we had never seen before like this one of our father, #9 bottom right, with his Baltimore Bullet teammates during his years as a professional basketball player in the newly formed NBA.
Or this photo of our maternal grandfather, 2nd from the left, with fellow West Orange, NJ police officers.
As we prepared for the final cleaning prior to closing on the sale of the house, I found a framed pastel portrait tucked away in the attic.
My sisters and my brother did not want the portrait, and I couldn't stand the thought of her heading out to the dumpster thinking that this must be one of our relatives.
From her dress and bonnet, I thought that she may have been from 1840.
From her no-nonsense look, I guessed she may have been from our father's side of the family.
She brought to mind a comment that my high school Biology teacher, Mrs. Moss had made to me, saying that she thought I would have made a good pioneer woman.
Even back then, I had no idea why she said that.
Maybe she imagined I would be the type of person who could milk a cow, churn butter and pluck a chicken all at the same time....just like I imagine this long lost relative probably could.
Yes, we could definitely be related.
The pastel came home with me, but when I removed it from what I was sure to be the original frame, I found no clues.
I called my one sister to see if she knew anything, and she said, "Oh, you mean Mrs. Lynch?"
Me: "Is she one of Dad's relatives?"
My Sister: "Nooooo......she's not related to us."
Then the story of Mrs. Lynch was revealed.
Real names will not be revealed, because I don't know what the statue of limitations might be for theft in Montclair, NJ.
Turns out that my sister and her best friend used to frequent a particular restaurant/bar that was decorated with an eclectic collection of genuine antiques.
Near the entrance hung a portrait that reminded my sister's friend of her boyfriend's mother, Mrs. Lynch.
As they would leave the restaurant/bar (emphasis on bar since no doubt that's where my sister and said friend would spend their time), said friend would always say, "Goodnight Mrs. Lynch."
Then one night, said friend tells my sister to hurry up, open the door and make a run for it because Mrs. Lynch is leaving with them.
And just like that, my sister, said friend and Mrs. Lynch are making a mad dash across the street to my sister's car to make their getaway, with the Montclair Police Station just a couple of doors down from the restaurant.
Mrs. Lynch spent at least 15 years in my parent's attic.
I'm sure that Catholic guilt kept my sister's friend from hanging Mrs. Lynch on her apartment wall.
The lesson from this Thanksgiving tale?
Sometimes you don't have to delve too far back into your family history to find that relative with a slightly devious past.....sometimes that relative is your sister.